✈ Campus Party

I just got home from a week in Brazil, where I gave talks for IBM and for a large ForgeRock customer and also at the remarkable Campus Party. This is the second year I have spoken at Campus Party in Brazil and once again it was an interesting and overwhelming experience.

Campus Party started in 1997 as a LAN party in Spain (where people bring along their computers to connect to a massive network and play computer games) but has spread across the Spanish and Portuguese speaking world to become a global activity. The event in Brazil is held in a huge exhibition centre. Delegates pay to attend, then live on-site for the week, camping in pop-up tents inside the exhibition centre.

That was the source of one of the off-the-wall activities I participated in. Every delegate received a bath-robe from one of the sponsors, and near the end there was a bid to establish the Guinness world record for the largest crowd wearing bath-robes. Only a fraction of the Campuseiros participated, and there was still a dense crowd exceeding 1,500 people. Check the video:

The noise in the place is phenomenal and draining. There’s no daylight inside, just 24-hour activity. To get a flavour of the energy and variety, take a look at the Fickr photos. It’s now far more than a LAN party for two big reasons:

  • First, people are there for far more reasons. There is a Software Freedom camp (who were the hosts for my talk), a PC case-mod tournament, a group meeting to attack the digital divide, install-fests, live and electronic music – every aspect of the connected society as experienced by the 18-30 age group at which the event is targeted.
  • Second, there’s also conference content – and lots of it. Speakers this time included Al Gore, Tim Berners-Lee and Steve Wozniak – and those are just the English-speakers. There were government panels, star speakers and novel content of every shade and colour.

The most striking difference takes a while to dawn on you, though. Usually at a conference there’s a theme – a programming platform, a social issue, a research thread. But not here. Unlike any other event I have ever been to, there is no single theme bringing everyone together, apart from the uniting motif of being a young adult in the 21st century. What’s brought people together is the Internet and the future. That has to be the ultimate post-post-modern un-conference possible.

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